Day 8: Talegaon (Goa) to Mumbao – RoadTrip Conclusion

When we got up in the morning, we fell in love with the place. R&S live in a row house and in the morning, with a bit of fog still hanging in the air, their backyard opens into a field. The greenery, the freshness in the air. Oh it was so great. Last question was asked to confirm that the cost of living is actually very low. Biwi is seriously thinking about Goa as a settlement destination! But all business ideas in Goa end up vacation themed.

The drive started somewhere between 9 and 9:30 and ended at ~7:30-8:00PM at home. Distance covered -~600 kms. Route taken – Talegaon, Panji, Sawantwadi, Amboli, Kolhapur, NH4, Pune, Mumbai. The last 400 odd kms were on NH4 which made it quite a fast drive back to Mumbai. Quick queues – during the monsoon, Amboli and Sawantwadi should be beautiful destinations to relax. Even otherwise, driving through the desolate ghat roads here was good fun. On the other hand, crossing Pune was a bit of pain, as well as a sudden realisation that the city is changing or has changed dramatically. It is no longer the small beautiful town that seemed a good settling city given its lifestyle, development, education and so on. Right now, far as you can see, you only see construction happening. Apartments, complexes, malls, etc. The entire highway is surrounded by them. And their ad hoardings, of course. Somewhere, the small-townness of Pune has gone AWOL.


In the morning, after getting enough overt and covert abuses from R&S about the #eipcfail-ness of our plan to drive back to Mumbai, rather than stay over for another day to chill out in Goa, we left their place around 9:15 or so. And this was the first time in the trip that we actually left something at some place. My watch, a phone charger, biwi’s scarf, and my bluetooth headset. Why? Even I am not sure. I know that we wanted to leave in time, since the prospect of a 12 hour drive at this instant was not really appealing to me. The back had started troubling. Biwi wasn’t that well this morning either. And a day at Goa would have done nothing really to make the rest of the trip easier. Yeah. I know. Our fitness levels are at an all time low.

Till you exit Goa, the traffic continues to bother you. Its only as you start getting closer to Sawantwadi that the driving eases up. From Sawantwadi, you take the exit towards Amboli and enter the ghats. There is hardly any traffic on this road. This moves towards Gadhinglaj, Nipani, etc. before merging into NH4 between Kolhapur and Belgaum. Some of the road around Gadhinglaj etc is not awesome. The last stretch just before you hit NH4 is especially painful. And it lasts about 15 kms I think. Nevertheless, you hit the NH about 40 odd kms before Kolhapur. We stopped for a quick bite at McD on NH4 just before Kolhapur. Biwi casually remarked about the freedom with which four college students (girls) drove in on scooties to hang out at McDonald, and how that was so completely unimaginable back in the days.

From Kolhapur to Pune is a reasonable breeze of a drive. Pune was a little painful. We hit Pune at about 5PM, and had to brave part of the office traffic on the highway as well. It took us about an hour to cross over and hit the Mumbai-Pune expressway. After that, as you know, hitting Belapur is rarely ever a problem. Thankfully, today, even Belapur did not pose a problem. The only jam as we headed towards Powai was the road that connects this Thane highway to Airoli bridge. There is some construction work going on, and it took us about 25-30 minutes to finally get on the Airoli bridge. The Powai gods were smiling on us. They did not give us traffic today. In lieu of that, they gave us a scratch on the car as delivered by one of their devout bhakts – a cement mixer truck. It wasn’t major, and I was sapped out to get into an argument at that point. Plus, the car had to go to the body shop for some pending work anyway. We took the scratch prasadham and reached home.

A total of 2920kms over 8 days.

As biwi summarised – Excellent scouting trip. Gave us a lot of places to reflect on and plan vacations for the rest of our life around. Not the best leisurely vacation she has had, but she can live with the fact that this was required to plan the next one better. Biwis and planning, I tell you!! But for once, I actually agree. I guess I am getting older. Wait. I am sure I am getting older.

In a nutshell –

  • Everyone should do it.
  • Everyone should learn from our mistakes and plan the timing and duration of driving better. Avoid driving after sunset.
  • Unless you are four guys who don’t really care where you sack (including the possibility of spending a night in the car itself), make your hotel bookings before hand. Forces two things – quality as well as schedule.
  • More than one pro-driver is a good idea. Message for biwi – more practice and more practice before the next trip. Message for self – if not, identify which driving friend is also a good road trip company! 😉
  • And identify significant break points. Places where you will break for at about 36 hours. Helps “see” things.

As RoMa’s email signature said – Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead.

And yeah. Its December 13th – Happy Budday Didi!!

Next up – a back to back movie marathon featuring Hotel Transylvania, The Hobbit and The Last Act. Show Timings have been checked. Thursday the 14th, here I come.

Day 7: Mangalore – Talegaon (Goa)

When we woke up this morning, we were a little wiser. We left Mangalore by 7:30. The plan was, yet again, to keep things simple. But we could not, yet again. So, today, instead of the earlier planned Gokarna, we ended the day at Goa (Talegaon, near Panaji) at Rati and Saurabh’s place.  We drove close to 420+ kms. On the way we stopped at Kaup, Udipi, Murudeshwar, Maruvanthe, Gangoli, Karwar. We did not, unlike the plan, stop or stay at Gokarna. Aum beach, for now, will remain a future destination. We ate at the world famous in Udipi restaurant – Diana hotel at Diana Circle as well.

When we started at 7:30, we laid our cards on the table. They involved a few things. The fact that a little bit of fatigue was setting in. The fact that driving over the last two three days had been very tiring, for sure. The biwi was somewhat under the weather, having taken crocin continuously for the last couple of days. My back pain was starting to make its presence felt and I had already had a moov-y nite on the trip. And we were about 1000+ kms away from Mumbai as per the planned route. And finally, the acknowledgement that from hereon the route offers destinations every 50-100 kms.  We evaluated a lot of things and identified Murudeshwar as the next decision making point.

The road between Udipi and Mangalore at that time of the day is quite comfortable and we could have got to Udipi in a little over an hour. But we saw an exit to Kaup beach and decided to check it out. The beach has a lighthouse for chrissake. 🙂 When you’re about to exit towards Kaup, you come across signages announcing adventure sports, etc. When you get in, you search for more signages. Finally you reach the lighthouse officer’s office. Then you cross it. A little later, you realize that you’ve most likely skipped the beach. So you turn around. Go back to the lighthouse office. And then you realize that between the shops and a couple other things, there is a small track that takes you to the beach. When you get to the beach, you realize one more thing. And you say it out loud – Damn, this is beautiful! Yep. That’s how you it happens.

We hit the beach at a time when there was no one around. Not a soul. Actually, one. There was a bird, and a very camera shy one that. It looked like a beach which is still used for evening binge sessions since there were places where liquor bottles were scattered just like that. But otherwise, it was fairly clean. And with a pay-and-use toilet in one corner. Closed, of course. We went up to lighthouse. And we realized that there is another beach extending on the other side of the lighthouse. Equally beautiful. With a couple of stay-in cottages. At least that’s what it seemed like from a distance. Biwi and I absorbed that beauty for some time, and then headed onwards towards Udipi.

Udipi. Quiet and quaint. It was the only quiet place in our entire trip I’d think. We had heard about the famous Diana hotel at the Diana circle. So, we promptly parked the car in a lane next to Diana, and had a hearty breakfast involving idli, vada, dosa, dahi vada, coffee and gadbad icecream. All for a total of 180 bucks. In that moment, I could have shifted to Udipi in search of a better life. The food was excellent, and their sambar, one of the best I have had in a very long time. After the breakfast, we decided to do walk down to the famous Shri Krishna Temple. All was well until I was asked to take off my shirt and showcase my paunchy magnificience inside the temple. I survived that. And having clicked a few pictures here and there before setting off for the next part.

The drive is bad and good. The road qualities could be much better, but it was not crowded like yesterday. And  it did not necessarily cross all the villages. The concept of a by-pass existed here. In a coupl of hours (12:30ish), we hit Maruvanthe. Now, Maruvanthe, is a place you are automatically going to pull over to your left and click some pictures. It helps that there are several small shanties selling coconut water. I missed not having a fish-eye lens on my camera then. Its difficult to capture that image with a normal lens. But it is gorgeous as you drive for a kilometer or two with the ocean on your left and an estuary on your right.
As we were sipping coconut water, the shop fella suggested that we go back and check out Gangoli. He did not actually tell us the name, but he gave us some directions and said that its a place where five rivers merge into the ocean. In reality, its five branches of probably 2 different rivers that merge. But, it, again, is a very delightful view. However, not recommended for the weak hearted and vegetairans. The stench of fish is almost unbearable here, since its a fisherman’s cove as well. Lots of fishing boats around.

From Gangoli, we crossed Maruvanthe again, and headed towards Murudeshwar, which is about an hour and half away. Murudeshwar is a reasonably modern construction on a very old shiva-lingam. There is a huge Shiva statue and a large temple constructed, and you can also see a representation of Shiva givinga s shivaling to Ravana. The beach next to Murudeshwawr is a majorly touristy place. Watersports, shanties, hotels, drinking joints, you name it and you havae it. It is so crowded that you can be put off even before you’ve parked your car. The twin descriptors of a being a beach as well a temple is a sure fire receipe for working up a giant crowd. We had a thali at Kamat’s there, which was strictly sub-par.

RoadtripDuring the lunch, we reassessed and we came to the conclusion that it’s hitting us now. And rather than the planned Gokarna-Ganapathiphule-Mumbai or Gokarna-Tarkarli-Chiploon-Mumbai route, maybe we should just head back home with one stop. And hence, we picked Goa for a stop over at Rati and Saurabh’s. And the road trip hence, resembles, something like what’s on the left side here.  Biwi wanted to meet Rati much. So, we started driving through the Konkan highway. Surprisingly, the place that really caught our imagination along the route was . It is quite beautiful, and has made it to our list of potential destinations.

We made a tiny mistake. We went to Talegaon from inside Goa, rather than sticking to NH66. So, in essence, we spent the last two hours just navigating the last 40 odd kms. Also, at about 5 or so, as we were entering Goa from Karwar, we felt like stopping for a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, once you’ve entered Goa, all you get for miles and miles are bars. And if you stop at one, try having Thums Up for caffiene content. The coffee can put you to sleep.

We reached Rati’s place at 7:30 or so. And we managed to stay awake till about 11:30 or so. And by then we were sure what were going to do the next morning! 🙂

p.s. A part of the conversation with Saurabh is going to make it to some other post. It was about the “need for appreciation” in office. Most managers would know what I mean! 😉

Day 6: Kozhikode – Mangalore

Some people don’t learn their lessons. I am one of them. At least, in this moment of divine introspection, I am ready to admit this. And if you value your life, you’re not supposed to remind me that I accepted this. At any point here onwards.

So, today, we drove ~240kms. We started at 11:00. And we parked at 7:30. On the way, we took a small detour to see Kappad beach (Kozhikode itself), and then Bekal Fort. Yes. That’s the story in short. In detail, its a lot of things!

Our maths was precise. 240kms. 4 hours of drive on the better Kerala Highways. Or, maybe 5. One hour of Bekal Fort stopover maybe. We were a little tired, and wanted to take it easy. We had a decent breakfast at the hotel, and got sufficient sleep before starting off this time. So, no 5AM hurries, and no continuous planning. The only thing we had done was we had identified a hotel at Mangalore (The Saffron) and another at Udupi (Sai Vishram or Janardhana) as potential overnight targets. You see – Uncleji at the homestay had warned us that in Kerala, we should stick to nicer hotels even if we have to pay more. You should not trust these cheap hotels. Lots of funny business, he said. We got the drift.

We had planned to take this day as a light one. Little driving, and lots of sightseeing, driving by the coast, and all the good things that come to your mind when you’re close to the ocean.

At 11, we set off. At 12, we were crossing Kappad beach. At 1, we crossed Vadakara, and at about 2 we crossed Kannur. There are a few things you need to know if you’re ever going to do this route.

  • It is actually beautiful. In patches. It’s full of greens, groves and shades almost all through. There are several instances of you crossing a “backwater”-ish formation and most of them are beautiful because they’re generally untouched.
  • It is called a highway. Mumbai people can akin it to Jarimari road that connects Sakinaka to BKC, or a slightly better version of chapel road/hill road connect in Bandra (during evenings). For those who are not familiar with these stretches, you can compare it to the sound that comes when you are grating a tiny piece of aluminium against the wall. That screeching sound. Yes. That bad. The road is well laid, but for a highway, it spends most of its time inside villages. The concept of a by-pass does not exist. And since we are all such nice people, the road next to our house or shop can be used for the following activities (in no particular order) – parking my vehicle (in no particularly ordered or civil manner, and my vehicle can be a fully loaded truck too), getting together with 5 people and chatting, holding hands of another person of the same gender while walking, shitting and spitting, asking my cow to wait for me, generally running across the street, yogasana (esp the variety which involves outstretched hands). I am sure I am missing at least a dozen more things I had on my list.
  • It’s a two lane highway with no dividers. So, at any point, the probability of someone trying to take you head on or run you over is 0.5.
  • While the beach is probably less than 300 meters away from you, you rarely get a glimpse. Because the alleys that take you to the beach also have a huge density of houses. It is definitely not our answer to Highway 1 of US.
  • The bus drivers of Kerala are as bad or worse than the BEST or DTC/Blue line guys. You’re better not taking them on.

I am being too cynical here. If you have the time, then idle away and drive at an average of ~30kmph on this highway (NH66 also known as NH17) and enjoy what the God’s own country has to offer. There are several small places right throughout the drive – Thalassery, Mahe, Kannur, Payannur, NIleswaram, Kanhangad, Palikere, Bekal, Kasaragod, etc. that you can take small detours at. Lots of temples. Lots of beaches. The urge to compare one beach to another dies after you realize that you’ve been comparing twins and then quadruplets and then whatever the right term  for two identical siblings might be. It’s a beautiful countryside. Take your time to explore. If you love to see the temples, well – this could be a great trip. If you want to do beach hopping, well you could do that.

Moving on, through the driving ordeal, we reached Bekal, eventually, at 3:30 or so and had lunch at Nirvana. Nirvana is a property right next to the fort. Our GPS screwed us (once again) in trying to locate Vivanta by Taj. Also, we were a little frustrated with the driving part and Bekal seemed like a beautiful place, so we did consider taking a luxury break here. But as GPS would have it, we didn’t. Anyway, the lunch we had at Nirvana was a disaster. And we quickly moved on to the fort which is mesmerising, to say the least. As you explore the various arches and the expanse of the fort, you can’t but admire the beauty and the magnificence of it. It’s not magnificent in the Lal Qila way, but the ocean in the background, and the white sand uncrowded beach gives it a texture that is unbelievable. Its clean and well maintained, and some more weeding out work is going on right now. We marked Bekal as another place where we may want to come and spend a weekend in peace at some later time.

At 4:45 or so, we moved onwards. As we were getting to Mangalore, we debated whether we wanted to go forward till Udupi. Eventually, with the high beam driving along the two-lane highway and the quality of roads deteriorating as you enter Karnataka, the decision was made in favor of staying overnight at Mangalore.  The drive on this road is exhausting. Overtaking is a balance of skill, timing, patience and speed. And one of the worst things that can happen to you is when a truck driving at 11.5kmph feels like overtaking another truck driving at 11.45kmph. Which happens quite often here.

Tomorrow’s plan – Udupi, Maruvanthe, Murudeshwara, Gokarna.

Day 5: Nagarhole/Kutta – Kozhikode

Summary: The reason we went to Kozhikode? We will come to that in the details. But this morning, we took a long stroll aroung the 40 acre estate, then checked out Iruppu Falls and the temple. After that, much deliberation happened and we drove towards Kozhikode via Wayanad. The short and sweet distance to cover took about 4.5 hours in total. The round and round and the world comes down trip made the khalasi seat biwi a little light headed. But we checked into a tripadvisor recommended hotel Asma tower in the evening and decided that the day would end here. So, it was a short 300 odd km day. Why 300? Since Kozhikode is less than 200km? We will come to that too. But the crisp takeaway – 300 odd kms over 8.5 hours of driving. Loved the beautiful wayanad region, figured out that of the three beaches around Kozhikode, Kappad is considered better, but Kozhi’s own beach is the really crowded one. Major Marina Beach and Golden Beach feeling happened. And learnt a few tiny lessons about better road tripping, maybe.

So, as expected, we couldn’t get up at 5:30, so Nik missed the 5:45, and we got all fired up to catch the 6:15 bus. Its a different matter that I was so sleepy that I almost slipped and broke my hand. But since we had to continue marching forward with no real pain (?), I did not. All good. At 6:15 the bus did not turn up. Yeah. It was one of those scheduled buses that may or may not make the schedule. The uncleji at the homestay, Mr. Raghu suggested we go to Gonikoppal to drop Nik. His mental maths was that the distance was about 25 kms. On the meter, it was about 45. Well, this, I am used to happening to me. Across India. “Bas thoda sa hai, paidal nikal jaiye” or “bas wo thoda aage hai. left side mein” kinds. Anyway, uncleji accompanied us for showing the way, and I didn’t complain because that early, with the fog still not cleared and the weather a pleasant cold, I was enjoying it.
After a 90km round trip, we had Nik packed and despatched, and biwi had ordered for coffee and breakfast. For the breakfast we had rice balls with bhaji (alu bhaji) and chutney. And some poached eggs. Delicious. Again. And that’s when the deliberation happened. After much debate, the end conclusion was – hold your breath – lets take a walk. The homestay streteched for several acres and we decided to take an unsupervised walk and do some meet and greet with the nature. It was a beautiful time of the day and the walk across the estate was great fun. We came back an hour or so later, and then decided to explore the Iruppu Falls. Now, here is a funny thing about Iruppu falls. All the local signages are for Irpu falls, while google talks about Iruppu or Irpu or Irupu,  and occasionally leads you to different places, one of them being 98kms from the homestay. Better sense prevailed, and we asked Renuka, the wife and the primary caretaker for the homestay.

With some little confusion, we covered the 7-8km distance to Irpu Falls. Another example of some place with great potential gone waste. The damn fall is about 120 odd steps of trekking up away. While you get to the fall, there are several treks that offshoot from there. Now, the problem I have is – most of these are not safely laid out (which is somewhat ok), are completely unsupervised and with no cellphone signal either (which could still be fine), and are never mentioned anywhere until you reach that signboard which says – a 6km trek to XXX and and 9km trek to YYY. It also expects you to buy a ticket, but you can’t see a ticket counter to buy the trekking ticket from. And with dustbins every 20 odd steps, our fellow countrymen still decide to throw plastic bottles and piss wherever mother nature reminds them. So much for tourism promotion in our country. Ideally, someone who’s into trekking can spend a couple of weeks easily in the region, just ticking off one interesting trek after another. But we sold our ideals around the time of independence. So, zip it.

The irpu temple is under renovation (at the base of the hill). The legend goes that when Rama-Lakshman et al were crossing this place during their vanvasa, Ram was very thirsty and wanted Laks dude to get him some water. Laks dude fired an arrow into the ground and that’s how the rivers and the water fall came into being. The place is also called Lakshman Teertha, and the place where Rama did the worship of Lord Shiva is the Irpu temple. Holds great respect and has more visitors during Shivratri. So, if you are looking to trek, you can avoid that particular time of the year.

We came back an hour and a half or so later from the fall, and proceeded to do some touristy stuff. We bought vanilla tea from the nearby shop! Yeah! With that taken care of, we came back to the homestay, had another great meal. And then packed and left. But not before another round of deliberation happened.

See. The original plan was that we will go towards Kasargod from here and then stay at Bekal or something. Our calculation, which had gone haywire over the last couple of days, suggested a 4-5 hour drive. But Uncelji was of the opinion that Kasargod is a waste of time and a much worse drive (road quality wise), and we should rather go towards Kozhikode via Wayanad. Especially since Kozhi is just 2 -2.5 hours away. And Kerala has better roads than Karnataka.After a lot of very Indian discussion-  where the alpha male speaks with great confidence about things he has never done in his life but has definitely got an opinion about, and the alpha female (or beta female) decides to occasionally chime in with some details thoughtfully. Its only later that you realize which part was correct and/or relevant.

Now, at the end of this drive to Kozhi, I realized a couple more things. One – don’t trust everything and everyone (this actually was just a reinforcement) and two – I do look like Schumacher or Alonso from some angle. Anyway – no major complaints since it only took 4-5 hours to get to Kozhi and by then we had given up any hope of moving further up to, say, Kannur or Kasargod. That being said, since the entire drive is through the wayanad region and you go and up down the entire ranges, its a beautiful serpentine road. Two lanes. No divider. And people driving at Thalaivar speeds. Anyway, biwi rose to the occasion, and drove another 40 odd kms this time (she did a 30 odd km ranging towards Nagarhole as well yesterday). After that, she decided that this was too much and so she started periodically dozing off in the khalasi (conductor/helper/chotu) seat.

As we were getting closer to Kozhi, we realized that we’d rather stay here overnight and then start towards mangalore/udipi and beyond. We did two things that most respectable internet savvy people do. We checked the things to do in Kozhi. Surprisingly, there isnt much. Second, we checked travelguru or something to see which might be a decent mid range hotel to stay at. We picked Asma Tower and came out very satisfied. Ask them as you book, and they will easily offer you a 20% discount on rack rates.

So we had some mean fish dish which came wrapped up in delicious tomato based masala and fried and then steamed inside a banana leaf. That with Appam and some soup. Some more lying down, reading and the lights went out. The plan for the next day – 120 odd kms to Mangalore (2-3 hours) and then take a call for the go forward. And maybe, drive till Bekal and beyond.

From a roadtrip perspective, three important lessons –

1. For road conditions, refer to . The guys on those forums are probably the best updaters.

2. For every destination you are thinking of plan +/- 50km radius as well. Because there are too many things that may not be in your control.

3. And this one’s important – It’s very difficult to find hotels with rooms that are not damp or have absolutely clean bathrooms. After Asma, we realized that it does make you feel a lot better if you are sleeping in a nice clean place. It might be a tad more expensive, but sometimes, it’s worth it. At least, plan for it so that you’re not surprised if you don’t get it.

And yes, we are excited about finally starting on the west coast drive – the konkan experience!

Day 3, 4- Bangalore, Dabaspet, Mysore, Nagarhole

*Back posted to maintain the continuity of the road trip. *

Summary: Spent day 3 in Bangalore meeting some friends during the day and devouring some amazing alooparathas made by Amit’s mom. Made a rushed drive to meet my mamaji, maami, cousin and my nani. At Dabaspet, which is about 50km backward on the same NH4 via the same outer ring road. Ate some more good motherly affection laced food, and then left at 6:30 in the morning of day 4 (having planned to leave at 5).  Got my cousin to tag along for this leg of the journey. Realized what different things people mean when they say that the roads are good. Drove towards Mysore, saw Philomena Church, couldnt see the palace, and then proceeded to Nagarhole National Park. Reached Narikadi Homestay in Kutta (t as in Tomato, not t as in “tarikh par tarikh”) after a gruelling drive. Approx 2:30 in the afternoon. Had a great lunch and dinner at Narikadi. Went for the evening safari at NHNP. The meter was at 1430 km or so by now. The trip mileage was at 13.5 kmpl. And the route we had taken was Bangalore-Dabaspet-Bangalore (NICE)- Mysore Road-Mysore-Hunsur-Nagarhole-Kutta. Torturous road, somewhat scenic as you drive through the national park.

Now the details –

Bangalore D3 was mostly about resting at our gracious hosts’ home, eating some amazingly delicious aloo paratha made by Amit’s mom for breakfast, meeting a few friends. Plan changed a little in the evening when I realized that my bade mama is posted 50-odd kms from Bangalore, and against what I was thinking, it’s not to be on my onward journey from Bangalore where I’d meet them, but that I had already missed out on meeting them on my way to Bangalore. See, they are at Dabaspet which is between Tumkur and Neelamangalam on NH4. To make matters worse, I realized very late that my nani is here as well. So biwi and I rushed over to spend the night with them. Quality time (limited though) was spent with mama, mami, nani and my little brother nikku. We also managed to convince Nikku to join us for the next leg of the trip to Nagarhole. And yeah, there was some delicious food at home – parathas, anda bhurji, rajma, bhindi, etc.

On D4, we had plans of leaving at 5 in the morning, and as per the plan, we left at 6-6:30. We took the NICE toll road to exit towards Mysore. And this is also the beginning of my learning that all roads are not the same. All highways are not 4 lane. All driving is not rational. And all Karnataka has ridiculous road bumps.
Anyway, to cut the long chase short, starting at ~1070kms on the meter, we did ~350kms during the day to get to Nagarhole via Mysore. We saw the Philomena Church in Mysore, where the Sunday mass was in progress. We wanted to spend an hour at the palace too, except that for some ridiculous reason (the King’s birthay or wedding anniversary or such), the palace was to open not before 11:30. And we were at Mysore at 10:00. We did the maths, and decided to move forward because we were keen on doing the afternoon/evening safari at Nagarhole.

We had booked through and were to stay at Narikadi home stay at Kutta. Its not Kutta as in Dog. The “t” sounds like the t in Texas and Tomato.  The drive from Mysore to Kutta takes you through the Nagarhole national park (Rajiv Gandhi National Park) and the distance of about 90 odd kms is a punishment for at least half of your sins. At least that’s what I think. That should make me happy, right? Half my sins absolved for? Well, that’s not your first reaction as you are going through the experience. You just want to get it done with and move on to a more sinful life at that point, just in case there is very little of it left. The roads are bad, and have been laid sporadically across what must have been a giant pothole encompassing the whole of the region in the times of Mahabharata. The speedbreakers are extremely torturous, especially for people who drive a car like the City. The number of times your car scrapes through makes you wonder if you will ever be able to drive beyond 10kmph.

Well, we managed to reach the homestay at about 2:30PM or so. ~4hours from when we started from Mysore. The route was the Hunsur one, in case you are wondering.

Things did improve from here. We had some excellent food waiting for us. A spicy dry variety of chicken, the brown rice pulao, white rice, sambhar, rasam, papad, two different vegetables, some pickle, curd, etc. Most excellent. Detour: There is a  little thing I need to share here. Whenever I am in my native village, somehow the food that has been procured closer to home and is less processed/moved around, etc. seems a lot tastier. And I am not sure if you have eaten food from the wooden/ clay ovens in villages. Something’s there that makes you wonder where that extra bit of taste is coming from. Not quite sure if that was the case here, but these guys have a 40 acre  estate where a whole bunch of farm products are sourced from, for their own kitchen as well.

We then rested for about 45 minutes and then left for the Nagarhole safari. The pics will be inserted once I have had a chance to overcome my laziness. The safari was interesting because at least two of the parties sharing the bus with us had already paid some under-table money to the driver to ensure good views and better exploration. People with giant lenses and mega-camera-bodies were with us trying to catch a glimpse of something exotic. Unfortunately for them, and not so bad for us, we saw the four horned antelope, a lot of cheetals, some sambhars, couple of Gaurs (wild bison), elephants, tonnes of monkeys and one lion tailed macaque. Between the three of us, we moved the camera around to get passably decent pictures of wilderness and animals. Done. Ticked. Get back to the home stay. Time check – 6:45PM. Darkness – check. Laziness-check. Fatigue- double check. Food craving – check.

Dinner surpassed the lunch with supremely fine vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare. Language barriers with the serving staff made it difficult to get a lot of answers about the recipes or the contents, but I am a foodie who enjoys eating more than analyzing what is being eaten. Or instagraming it. The items included a variety of chilly chicken, coconut milk flavoured chicken variety with gravy, a very oil-free and delicious variety of bhindi with some coconut scrapings for garnishing, a very different variety of cabbage (new taste for me), some rasam on the side, and some rice. Usual suspects (curd, pickle, papad) etc were there.

By then we were in the zone where we lay down to read some and then go off to sleep. The plan for Day 5 was tentative, like most plans. One thing we knew, that NIkku had to catch a bus back to Bangalore. Which meant a 5:30AM start tentatively. For the records, I still hate getting up early morning.

Day 2 : Hubli to Bangalore

So, we stayed in the Deluxe room at Tirumala Classic (also known as Dhammanagi Comforts) at Hubli. Breakfast was included in the rack rate. And the biwi and I had crashed rather early last night. Getting up at 4:30AM in excitement of starting this trip was finally hitting us, apparently.
We got up rather in time this morning (as planned) and were ready to leave Hubli by 7:30ish or so. Except that the breakfast would get served not before 8, which soon became 8:15 as per the best guesses offered by the hotel staff. Rather than spend another hour or so all decked up to leave, we decided in favor of checking out. However, the hotel staff was very friendly and offered to send the breakfast to our room right then. The offer was availed, but the delivery happened at 8:10 or so anyway! Indian hospitality has a way of biting you on your backside, you know. More often than you realise. Like that extra mithai that you eat on Diwali.

So, by the time we left, it was 8:45 or so. And this time round, we asked for the way to the highway rather than depend on google maps (our yesterday story on gmaps is in writing and shall be shared in due course of time). We hit the highway at 9:05 and started breezing through Karnataka after that. The destination was Bangalore – 403 ams from here. The next 250-300 kms were a breeze, and I think we were averaging 100+ kms an hour till then. Things slowed down once we reached Chitradurga. Work on the Golden Quadrilateral is not yet complete here onwards. In layman terms, it means that every 3-5 kms, you would be getting off the highway to drive a km or so as a diversion. Anyway, to cut the long chase short, we took about 4-4.5 hours to reach Bangalore outskirts, and another hour or so to cross the last 30kms or so to reach Whitefield where we are being graciously hosted by dear friends Amit and Shubha. After resting a bit, we had an evening bite at Alila and dinner at Chez Mariannick. Both the places are strongly recommended. At CM, you should go with the La Bergere pizza. Their chicken pizza was not that awesome. The veg one (La Bergere) was brilliant. Desserts are mindblowing too.

So, what’re the key takeaways from today –

  • Outer Ring Road is a colossal mess.
  • Some idiot has taken a lot of pain to design the speed breakers in Bangalore. They have been designed for the sole purpose of damaging cars and ensuring that no one even thinks about spending a lot of money on cars like Lamborghini or Ferrari. Those poor bottom feeding vehicles wont last a week in this city.
  • Also, in addition to the fuel expenses, you need to budget almost one rupee per kilometer on this highway as the toll fee that you’d pay at great frequency.
  • (This is for Mumbai folks only) – The houses and apartment complexes in Bangalore are huge!
  • And lastly, Bangalore is the only city where there are hundreds of Kebab and Biryani corners that specialize in Indian Chinese or Chinese Tandoori.

Day 1: Mumbai to Hubli

Writing a road trip diary is difficult. A lot happens which is of interest to you and not to others. And a lot is observed which might not be of interest to you, but could be of value to others. Where do you draw the line? What do you tell? And what do you skip?

So, on day 1, in summary, we drove 650 kms, stopped at Panhala fort, had breakfast before Pune, and lunch at Kolhapur, stopped for the night at Hubli (and struggled a lot to find a room on the fly), and felt good about life in general. The mileage has been 14+, and my love for an automatic car has multiplied manifolds (I drive a Honda City Automatic). For those of you who wonder whether one misses the stick, now, the final answer is NO. The only question left was whether on a highway with significant change in terrain every now and then, would I miss the stick? After these 650kms, I am absolutely clear. All my cars from here onwards are going to be automatic. I will sacrifice the mileage advantage for the comfort of a good automatic. And with 14 on the highway, I am actually not complaining about the mileage either.

Panhala Fort is like the potential of Indian youth. A great idea with no tangible results. Two interesting tidbits – the west gate has hindu inscriptions on one side (Shivaji era) and muslim inscriptions on the other (Adil Shah era), AND the fort has 11 stories, of which only 2-3 are accessible now (what a pity!).

From a drive perspective, the only sub-standard stretch till hubli is after you’ve crossed Belgaum where since the GQ work is not complete, the roads become a two lane highway with no dividers, which effectively means a single lane highway. Otherwise, the drive is an absolute pleasure. I think the biwi got the raw end of the deal on driving (she drove us across Pune for a 80 odd km stretch). Much as my instincts kept kicking in trying to tell her how to do certain things (she has only recently started driving and this was her first highway drive), I think she drove quite well (insert a major proud feeling kind of thing here).

More laterz!! And yes, a comprehensive road trip diary shall also be compiled for the route we take.

In Anticipation

Tomorrow morning, in all likelihood, if not tonight itself, we begin our road trip. The plan is to hit Bangalore first, and then hit the western coasts closer to Kozhikode, and then drive along the Konkan highways back to Mumbai. The trip should be somewhere in the 2500+ km range, and while we have 10-odd days budgeted for it, we are going in with a couple of planned things and leaving the rest to the flow of the moment. I said “in all likelihood” because I hate jinxing things by referring to them as being 100% in my control.

First, this might end up being the first real real break for us in a long time. It will be the first time in a long time that my mind would not be wandering back to the office or the work or the projects (the same can not be said about the biwi, even though the biwi is much better than me at leaving office behind). That does include the long break I had taken at the beginning of the year, which served as a reasonable vacation but didn’t really help me take my mind off work. And with me not switched off completely, the biwi has had to bear the brunt of planned imperfect getaways.

Second, I have a habit of trying to pack too much in any given day to be able to relax fully. People to meet, stuff to write, books to read, music to listen to, notes to take, tasks to do, etc etc. To the extent that sometimes the day never ends and the next day is already here. And I am hoping that at the end of these ten odd days, I would know that the world doesn’t end if I don’t do too many things, and better still, I would have a few more answers for myself.

Third, driving on long stretches cleans my head. It’s my meditation time of sorts. And I am not sure if it happens to you, but me and the biwi do actually manage to stay silently together for very very long stretches of time before (more often than not) breaking the silence for the exact same topic. Like that song on radio or the movie reference behind it, or that ad on the highway, or the car that we might have just overtaken. Somehow, we notice very similar things that brings us back from our reverie. In silence, we converse. But the short of it is that these drives tend to be a good medication for my generally confused mind.

Fourth, this, much to my happiness, and not exactly to biwi’s unhappiness, is probably the least planned trip for our 7 years of knowing each other. Biwi, like a true biwi and like a true female, loves to have a plan. Me, like a husband, and like a true desi male, is not fond of planning. I believe in that perfectly executed plans might give you satisfaction of execution, but they take away the joy of discovery. I think the word is Epiphany.

And last, I am a firm believer that while my facebook feed is full of my friends’ announcements of their phoren-vacations and ubercool DSLR-photoshopped photographs with 117 likes and 63 “wow! when did you go? I went their last year” kind of comments, there is much that our poor little country has that should be seen-shot-photoshopped. I plan on only seeing. Maybe some shooting. No photoshopping.

It also means that marathon blogging may focus on the road trip, OR to some mindlessly mindbending meandering musings on the road (example of anupraas alankar). I am looking forward to sharing something interesting. And if nothing else, the roads to take 😉

London Travelogue – Part 1

I landed in London on Monday morning. It was 8:30AM or so by the time I came out of the airport. A slight chill (~15 Deg. Celsius) in the air, few vehicles on the street (Monday was a bank holiday in London), I realized that I was liking the city. Despite my horrible immigration experience, where 4 people were handling immigrations for 6 simultaneous flights, I was, fairly soon, thrown into a city with some beautiful buildings, narrow paved streets and people walking around in all kinds of dresses (formal and informal). What took me in the most is the architecture.


The hotel I was staying at – Radisson Mountbatten, can be called an average hotel, the likes of which you find quite a lot in places like NY – nice and good, small rooms, basic functionality kinds. Not the expansive rooms that Indian hotels have, but comfortable and functional. The hotel is in the heart of the Central London – a few blocks from Trafalgar square, Leicester Square, very close to Covent Garden, Theater Lane, China Town, etc. A couple of miles off is the London Eye, Westminister Abbey. The office was a couple of small blocks away. Office being on the 10th floor of a Central London building, there are some excellent views available from the meeting room windows.

That far was the background. Now, let me tell you what I did.

Morning: After refreshing myself a bit, I went out with Bee and Ranjeetha. They had come to pick me from the hotel. We went to their place first, grabbed some breakfast, and then moved out. We want to Kent to meet Crap, and found that he had taken a break to vegetate in his room. And vegetate he did with a huge 43′ HDTV, a fully integreated home theater system with DVD player, VHS tape player, speakers etc and a complete collection of Star Trek- The Next Generation video tapes. We bull-ed around for some time. Discussed random things, before checking out his newly acquired prized possession- a Toyota Sports Car – 220BHP, 2000 CC, red color, car for just 1000 pounds. It was a steal, I say! Considering he would break even on this investment in just 2 months, and he gets to be a proud owner of a sports car!


Lunch: After this nice meet-do we started towards Greenwich where I saw people trying to control kites that were as big as parasailing balloons. Nice.. Moved to have lunch at a nice Italian Lunch at Bella Vista (not that I would recommend this restaurant to a lot of people, but it was a decent change from the Indian Italian I am used to). Came back to Bee’s place to see India almost losing the match to England (they did lose the match eventually). Finally, I was dropped back at the Leicester Square station by Bee and Ranju.

I was supposed to call Alex now, who had been waiting for me all day long. I had somehow managed to get a slip so far. But not for long. While trying to find his hotel, I passed Trafalgar square three times and saw and enjoyed almost everything that is there to be enjoyed. Its a nice place to spend an evening just chit-chatting and looking at the victorian architecture surrounding the place.





Evening: After locating Alex, we grabbed a cuppa at Starbucks, chatted about different things, and how Partner was in love with the city of London because there was so much activity, so many colorful people and I am sure there would have been several other reasons (yeah.. the description of all the women he liked) if I had shown even marginal interest in knowing what the reasons were! Just as I fear on such occasions, our conversation quickly moved to official stuff and I reminded myself that the workaholic me hasn’t thought about the next day. So, we got back to business, went back to his hotel, and started working on the two decks that we were supposed to be working on. Finished that by around 9PM and came out for Dinner.

Dinner : When in Rome, do the Romans. I wanted to have an “English” Dinner. The first three places that we went to, had their kitchen closed at 9PM, Monday being a holiday in London. Finally, we went to a Garfunkel’s. Now, Garfunkel is like the English cross between McDonald’s and TGIF. I dont know if TGIF is also an English chain though. It serves standard fare, has outlets in every third corner of London, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner along with nice Alcohol. I went about the business with a nice order of Chicken Kiev and Diet Coke. Partner ordered something to suit his palette. And I realized something that I had been thinking about all through the day. English people are Europeans! They take 25 minutes+ to serve your order. And the whole dinner/lunch affair is usually upwards of an hour. Everything is done at a leisurely pace. Nice! MKOP.

Good night! : I came back to my room at around 11 in the night, drained of energy and a sagging mind (it was 3:30AM IST! What do you think??). Still unable to sleep, I think I got about 2-3 hours of sleep till about 6AM. And the last note here, is that you guys should definitely listen to the “Jana Gana Mana” album by A R Rahman. Awesome!! Its difficult to channel so much creativity together. Over 20-25 great artists giving voice and soul to the national anthem in their own way. Simply mindblowing stuff.


Update: Click on the image thumbnails to enlarge the pics

Fishes, Turtles n Whales

Fishes, Turtles n Whales
Originally uploaded by dingydas.

Pics from my trip to Shedd Aquarium (Chicago). You can always question


Well.. Just like that.. Or, its my “not just birds need be beautiful”

counter to my Bharatpur trip!

Pictures from My Trip to Ghana Bird Sanctuary

My sentiments after I came back (Yaar … Ullu Bana Diya!!)

A Kingfisher!!

Herd of Spotted Deer

A stork?

A crane??

A heritage site – Keoladeo National Park

Golden Duck- Find of the day!! Indian team is in love with them ! 🙂

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